A new look column from wedding venue expert Kelly Chandler – enjoy, and make sure to do your homework!
The start of the year is an exciting and action-packed time as the number of couples recently engaged and searching for their dream location is at an annual high. Venues should be capitalising on these enquiries while also using the January/February quiet time as a window of opportunity to make repairs, paint, redecorate, build, clean and generally prepare for what’s just around the corner.
One such venue client of mine, who I checked in with very recently, has a big project on their hands preparing for their first wedding season as the completely revamped and redesigned Baddow Park House near Chelmsford, Essex.
The owners behind this intimate property are working tirelessly to bring a stunning heritage house up to date as an on-point exclusive use country house with nine bedrooms. They are also blending the very best of the parkland setting within their offer. Building is underway of a stunning new light-filled orangery for dining and partying, a new garden pagoda and ceremony space and the most brilliant chill out shed of dreams – who says you can’t have a rustic fire pit, snuggle under blankets, feast on pizza fresh from the oven and still have the most elegant country house backdrop? I’m excited to see their first weddings unfold this summer.
Small and Intimate
I’m having lots of conversations about ‘small and intimate’ weddings and the growth of these in 2020. The average number of wedding guests tends to sit at around 80 but this is dropping slightly year on year according to industry surveys and anecdotal evidence from those in the industry. On the up is the small and intimate wedding, be that very small (an elopement of the couple with the minimum of two witnesses) or the wedding of 30-40, usually incorporating close friends and family.
In a lot of cases these intimate weddings are taking in very personal ceremonies with intimate daytime meals often followed by larger evening parties, sometimes same day, sometimes in a different location and on a different day entirely.
I am not surprised at the change; I’ve seen it before, albeit more than a decade ago when there was far less choice out there and budgets were particularly stretched post financial crisis. Personally I can see the merit – in theory it costs less on the food front at least, but it also goes hand in hand with a lot of couples really wanting to personalise their ceremonies, making them incredibly meaningful, intimate and joyous, often using independent celebrants rather than the registrar’s rather paperwork-driven approach to achieve this. A small guest number seems to align and helps couples spend more quality time with those closest to them.
In the industry I see a mixed reaction, often with financial concerns that small means less. It’s not always the case and I speak to a lot of wedding planners who are reporting equal budgets spent on 30 guests as 100. Welcoming smaller guest numbers may not work or suit some venues and locations but the rise of smaller weddings can be excellent news for others. They can either market a currently underused small space that already exists, get better value from a much larger space ideal for parties that currently has been too large for the average wedding dining guest list, or create midweek offers to specifically target the elopement couple keen on your very unique setting and experience.
Weddings and flowers go together like salt and pepper! Well that’s my view anyway, but I love the evolution of the use of flowers in weddings that continues each year.
In 2020, I’m excited to see that dried flowers are going to be much more present in our weddings. Everlasting blooms and grasses in warm and muted tones are not new but are a trend that is picking up pace. I have been a fan of excellent quality faux flowers to dress wedding spaces for a long time, and again, while not new, I think we’ll continue to see more venues investing in them to create that desirable flower-filled look that is very high on the wedding trend charts.
One of the top three words used by couples to explain how they wanted their wedding to be described in 2019 was ‘lush’ (according to the Splendid Insights UK Wedding Report 2020). Foliage, greenery, the great outdoors, nature and blooms are very important in creating that feel.
What do we need to keep an eye on in how we deal with wedding customers in 2020?
Lots of course, but one area I think we can expect to see huge change this year is how customers are choosing to communicate and be reached by their wedding venue and other suppliers. We’ve already seen a big shift away from the use of the phone by millennials to the use of email, but 2020 will see us all getting more communication via other channels, specifically Instagram Messenger, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and text.
I’m having conversations with colleagues who are working on fresh tech, finding ever more simple, clever ways of chatting to customers via adaptations of live chat on web platforms and more. Bite size, quick exchanges of information are favoured and I have many clients reporting to me really good conversion and response rates when using WhatsApp in particular as a way of conversing. I’m a huge fan of VoiceNotes that I use via WhatsApp, Telegram and Voxer – the best of both for me, quicker than typing, much more emotion and rapport building possible but not disruptive to somebody else’s schedule!
Take a look at your communication channels; how clients can currently contact you and how they might like to. Ask a sample of your clients (as not all platforms are for everyone) and then test out any new channels you would like to add. If you’re not familiar with some of the technology, think about how it could be used to communicate more efficiently and convert more enquiries into showrounds and sales.
About the Author
Kelly Chandler is a long term preferred service provider for exclusivevenues such as Syon Park, Highclere Castle, Spencer House and Stoke Park Club. Kelly’s consulting services to wedding venues draw to prior experience in international conference and event planning, over 15 years of business management, and working directly with discerning couples planning their weddings in diverse locations and forging successful relationships with all components of the wedding industry. A former director of the trade body The Alliance of Wedding Planners, Kelly is a well-regarded innovator, mentor, trainer and industry spokesperson on and in the wedding business.